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Word of Mouth: Hudson Valley, NY

Buddhist retreats, mirror tents and grass-fed burgers in our guide to the riverside region

by James Thorne in Travel on 02 August 2013

One of the great pastimes of living in NYC has always been leaving it. When the heat and hustle of the city get to be too much, New Yorkers are looking for one thing: the quickest way out. Thanks to Lexus and their generous loan of the 2013 RX 350 F Sport, we were able to do just that. Bearing down on country roads in an unassailably quiet cabin, the relaxing drive upstate was part and parcel of the vacation itself. A testament to the pleasures of driving on verdant byroads in the RX 350, we overshot a turn by around 15 miles and wound up in the Berkshires; upon noticing the mistake, it was actually tempting to keep going.

A huge region with no shortage of options, here are our tips for your trip upstream.

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Grazin' Diner

One of the problems with eating out at local, organic spots is that you can occasionally leave feeling unsatisfied. Not so at Grazin' Diner, an establishment with all the trappings of your favorite greasy spoon—right down to the chrome façade. Sink your teeth into six ounces of grass-fed, animal welfare provided beef decorated in farm-to-table toppings and house-made condiments. Also be sure to sample a glass of the diner's own root beer or birch beer.

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The Spiegeltent

When school is out and the undergrads mostly withdrawn, locals flock to Bard College to experience the summertime programming at the Spiegeltent. Dutch for "Mirror Tent," the temporary edifice is lavishly decorated and lit, a setup that works just as well for a daytime children's circus as it does for an evening jazz band. Hosted by the Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts, the venue is an old-world cabaret setup with drinks and dishes served up during live performances on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, with regular programming throughout the week. Stick around late nights on Fridays and Saturdays for after-hours dancing and drinks with the tent's house band.

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McEnroe Organic Farm

In a region where dinner conversation can easily revolve around recently planted herbs or the status of one's kale, no trip is complete without a visit to a farm. McEnroe Organic Farm is one of the more established farms in the region, offering a walking tour, full market and a killer cafe on site. Using only meat and produce that is grown on the property, the kitchen stands ready to convert non-believers into organic shoppers. Educational workshops for gardeners and kids are also offered regularly throughout the season.

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Won Dharma Center

If "relaxation" is on your list of reasons for fleeing the Tri-State area for the Hudson Valley, then look no further than Won Dharma Center in Claverack, NY. The welcoming buddhist hub lets you opt for a multi-day meditation retreat, a morning yoga class or a walk through their pastoral trails. Architect Hanrahan Heyers designed the stunning modernist cedar structure to create a sense of indoor-outdoor living. A temple to serenity in New York's most Arcadian setting—what more could you ask for?

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Harney & Sons HQ

Long before establishing a ritzy SoHo outpost, Harney & Sons were coming up in the tea world with humble origins in western Connecticut. Now based out of Millerton, NY, the company runs a small shop down the road from its main factory. Complete with a shop, cafe and cupping room, the tea boutique is a marker to the Hudson region's tradition of ingenuity and craftsmanship.

Spiegeltent image by Cory Weaver; all other images by James Thorne

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